Space Suit of the Week

Both of the above photos were taken for Life Magazine in 1968 at ILC Industries in Dover, Delaware. One photo shows suit engineers diligently completing complex details on a pressure suit, and the other photo shows a lone lady hunched over a sewing machine cranking out a bevy of aluminum foil ponchos. I say this not only to point out the different experiences men and women had working in the space industry in the 60’s (Of course, it wasn’t just the space industry that treated folks more or less favorably based on their dirty bits) but also to point out two very different realities of the space industry in 1968.

On one hand this was rocket science, but on the other hand this was a really optimistic rocket experiment. While the whitecoats are debating the PSI strength of different weaves of kevlar, or when a lunar base would be ready for habitation, imagine the space seamstress looking up from behind her sewing machine (and patriotic collar) to remind the astronauts “be careful out there; bring back a moonrock!” And let’s hope she got one.

For all of the complexity that comprise space suits, it’s odd to see the same kind of sewing machine my grandmother used making pillow cases being used  to make components of extraterrestrial hiking gear.


September 10, 2010